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The Natural Environment

Drainage

The peninsular nature of the European continent has resulted in a generally radial pattern of drainage, with most streams flowing outward from the core of the continent, often from headwaters that are close together. The longest river of Europe, the Volga, flows primarily in a southerly direction into the Caspian Sea, and the second longest, the Danube, flows west to east before entering the Black Sea. Rivers of central and western Europe include the Rhone and Po, which flow into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Loire, Seine, Rhine, and Elbe, which enter the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea. The Odra (Oder) and Wisla (Vistula) flow north to the Baltic Sea. The radial drainage pattern lends itself to the interconnection of rivers by canals.

Lakes occur both in mountainous areas, such as in Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, and in plains regions, such as in Sweden, Poland, and Finland. Europe’s biggest freshwater lake is Lake Ladoga in northwestern Russia.

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